Many thanks to NAASCA's Terri Lanahan, Butte, Montana,
for her research into the news that appears on
the LACP & NAASCA web sites.
The point of policing
It can be a struggle for today's police leaders to connect officers with their mission as they field questions like, “Does anyone care?”
This article originally appeared in the December 2018 PoliceOne Leadership Briefing. To read the full briefing, visit Leadership balancing act | The point of policing | Officer safety initiative, and add the Leadership Briefing to your subscriptions.
Maintaining officer morale is critical to the success of every law enforcement agency, yet it can be a struggle for today's police leaders to connect officers with their mission as they field questions like, “Is anybody watching?” and “Does anyone care?”
REMEMBER OUR MISSION
Thirty years ago, I came to law enforcement convinced most people are instilled with a deep sense of goodness. As a police officer, my task is to serve those good people and keep them safe. In fact, the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics begins with the following:
“As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all persons to liberty, equality, and justice.”
As a police chief, my number one goal is to have my officers understand that every person we come across in our work – and we come across all kinds – is worthy of our service, our guardianship and our respect. Recent events though, in cities and towns across our nation, have probably caused many of us, both police and citizens alike, to wonder what in the world is going wrong in America.
How do tragedies like the Aurora, Newtown, Las Vegas and Parkland shootings happen?
Have police let the American public down?
Have we not been vigilant enough in our oath to the public?
My answer is a resounding “NO!”
THE VALUE OF CITIZEN PARTNERSHIPS
There is no doubt that police need to continue to grow and understand their individual communities, but the people that make up “our America” need to understand their own responsibilities to each other in keeping their communities safe.
In a democracy, effective police are reliant on citizen cooperation at a minimum and citizen partnerships at best. Citizen partnerships can be everything from individual vigilance to neighborhood watches. There is no better example of a citizen's diligence than when a man in Watertown, Massachusetts, saw blood on the tarp of his boat several years ago and quickly reported this to the police. His vigilance led to the arrest of the second Boston bombing suspect. A member of the community made the conscious decision to get involved and a great thing happened.
HOW POLICE LEADERS CAN DEVELOP PARTNERSHIPS
To develop and nurture partnerships with the community, police leaders need to:
Embrace change: When police leaders embrace change, partners – both inside and outside of the department – will share information relevant to collaboration without hesitation.
Make the effort: The business of policing shouldn't be just about successes or failures, but rather about the effort you put into assisting your community in becoming a safer place to live.
Remember your mission: Enthusiasm is contagious. Don't ever forget why you became a cop, as it most often began with the desire to want to help those who can't help themselves. This is where our inner strength and perseverance comes from.
So the next time one of your patrol officers asks, “Is anybody watching?” or “Does anyone care?” remind them that our children are watching, our neighbors are watching, our leaders are watching. Our entire community cares. Citizens look to us for our service, our guardianship and our respect. And when we as police officers come together to provide these things, we can say that we watched, we cared. And that's the point of policing.
Neighborhood policing program builds relationships to cut crime
In 2017, New York City saw some of its lowest violent crime numbers in decades. The nation's largest city police department reported historic reductions in crime last year, including the first time the number of shooting incidents fell below 800 and the number of murders below 300 — the city's lowest per-capita murder rate in almost 70 years. Other reductions were seen in the number of robberies and burglaries in the city.
With those benchmarks in mind, the NYPD now faces the challenges of sustaining, and attempting to surpass, that progress in 2018. The police force kicked off the year with some key internal promotions including the appointment of Rodney Harrison as Chief of Patrol. At the core of their approach to crime reduction is a concept called neighborhood policing.
"We have more police officers on the streets who are in the process of building relationships," said Harrison. "Having that shared responsibility with the residents of the city of New York, that's a great way of being able to maintain violence at a low level."
That concept of "shared responsibility" is often reiterated by NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill. In order to build a sense of unity, the NYPD is training neighborhood coordination officers through the Neighborhood Policing Program to deepen community relationships and make cops accessible to residents, not just in times of distress but as an integral part of their daily lives.
Officers John Buchanan and Robert Bramble are neighborhood coordination officers at the 79th Precinct, focusing on the people and issues of their Brooklyn community.
"The policing module is changing the way the community and police interact," said Buchanan. "It's taking officers that are generally scattered throughout the precinct everyday and assigning them to the same areas consistently so that if they have an issue, a problem in that area, that they're aware of it and they respond.... A person doesn't have to re-explain their problem over and over. It provides a sense of consistency for the officer and person knowing who's gonna show up when they call 911."
Modern technology also helps make them more accessible. All 36,000 officers in the department have cellphones and many use them as ways to be contacted by their local residents.
"Have you ever had a personal issue like if you had an ailment you had to go see a doctor? You always go see the same doctor," said Chief Harrison. "Well, it's kind of the same thing now. You have police officers in your neighborhood that are always assigned to you and you have access to them and you'll be able to call them when you need them and you'll be able to email them and there's always dialogue going back and forth."
Officer Robert Bramble on neighborhood policing program
This focus on developing more meaningful connections with neighborhood residents comes amid a tense time in modern policing. Individual cases of police brutality — often caught on video and circulated on social media — have fueled public outrage and heightened scrutiny of the actions of police officers.
Tracie Keesee, PhD, is the Deputy Commissioner of Equity and Inclusion at the NYPD and formerly served as the Deputy Commissioner of Training.
In addition to her leadership and work with the NYPD, Keesee also has a doctorate in human and intercultural communications. In her thesis she focused on racial profiling and the interactions "through the car window" between law enforcement and members of the African-American community. That deep understanding of the complex societal dynamics shines through in her work.
"You'll hear a lot of conversations around unconscious bias or implicit bias, and so we're human," said Keesee of the officer's perspective. "With the person on the other side of that window — the driver, African-American, male — you're coming with a history of interactions with law enforcement hoping that it will go well, that you have everything you need for that interaction."
But some in the community say the reality has yet to live up to the promise
Terrell J. Starr is a senior reporter for The Root and a resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, one of the neighborhoods patrolled by neighborhood coordination officers like Buchanan and Bramble. Starr argues that policing is inherently an adversarial role and putting more police officers into an area can actually increase tension with community members, especially minorities.
"The average young black male in New York City, they're not engaging with police officers at that level. The only time they're engaged with a police officer is normally in handcuffs," said Starr.
He remains troubled by how easily police encounters can escalate into the use of deadly force — and dismayed by the justifications that are often given when that happens.
"That's all it takes for a police officer to shoot you or to attack or to apply force: 'I felt.' That's something that Trayvon Martin's mother said when she was talking about policing, 'I felt.' And I hope that a black cop, or even a Latino cop when they look at me, they're not going to have that 'I felt' something or 'I fear for my life,'" said Starr.
Police shooting of Stephon Clark sparks 2nd day of protests in Sacramento
Starr's skepticism also comes from a belief among some residents that cops, even if diverse, have more of a loyalty to their uniform than to the community — considering themselves "blue" before any other color.
Officer Bramble, both a cop and an African-American, disputed this notion.
"As police officers you have the responsibility to police each other, too. We don't just police the street and turn a blind eye to each other," said Bramble. "When people refer to the blue line, I think it's misunderstood. The blue line is a sense of camaraderie.... If you're a police officer and you're going through a hardship — whether it's maybe work-based, it could be emotional, it could be something going on at home — like, you have people that have your back. It's not a cops vs. the community thing."
NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison on engaging with the community
But police departments nationwide have come under fire for a perceived lack of accountability in the tense atmosphere surrounding police brutality and the use of force in disputed circumstances.
"The problem comes in when a police officer engages in egregious activity and they're not held accountable, that's something that has not been touched at all. That's not an NYPD issue, that's not even a state of New York issue, that's an America issue," said Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans.
Lack of accountability is also a key concern for Starr
"I don't think we need more contact with police, I think we need less — and more accountability," he said.
In many high-profile incidents where black men died at the hands of police, officers were not charged or were eventually acquitted. In the 2014 death of Eric Garner, the New York City cop who was caught on camera choking him, Daniel Pantaleo, did not face charges. The same was true of Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Cleveland officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The officer who shot and killed Alton Sterling in Louisiana in 2016 did not face charges either.
The officer who shot and killed Philando Castile during a Minnesota traffic stop was was acquitted. In the case of Freddie Gray's death in Baltimore, three cops were acquitted, one mistrial was declared and two cops had charges dropped against them.
The NYPD's training programs aim to address situations that could escalate to violence and prevent the situation from ever reaching the point of an unnecessary fatality.
By putting officers into high-pressure simulations before sending them into the field, the NYPD hopes to prepare officers for difficult situations, such as dealing with someone with mental health issues.
"We do the best that we can to have officers understand that some of these things you can control and some of them will happen so fast that you will have to do and react in a way that you might not find yourself normally doing. And I think that it's important, though, for us to find that balance to make sure they understand the dangers of the job," said Keesee.
NYPD trains officers in realistic scenario simulations
"I think what we want to make sure we do here is that we not only have that understanding that safety is an issue but that you also are here to serve and to serve that community. [That] means that you need to learn that balance and that interaction and understand who you're serving."
By focusing on programs that increase community relations and diversity in the force, the NYPD hopes to rebuild some of the trust between city residents and law enforcement.
The NYPD is not the first big city police department to turn to a neighborhood policing strategy. In the 1990s, New Orleans saw a 60 percent drop in violent crime after the mayor at the time, Marc Morial, implemented a combination of community policing and community-oriented development programs. Morial recounted that they went from being a city with one of the highest number of FBI complaints for police brutality and misconduct to having just a handful per year.
Morial called the NYPD's efforts "an ambitious and worthwhile undertaking," but emphasized, "time will tell" if it's fully successful.
He stressed that police strategies alone are not enough: community-oriented programs, such as youth and economic development initiatives, must be coupled with an effort like neighborhood policing to truly have an impact.
"Certainly you've got incredible...reductions in violence in New York. I think the numbers have come down significantly. But it's important that people do not assign all the blame nor all the credit for what the situation is with public safety and crime to law enforcement. It's a wide variety of factors that goes into issues of public safety," said Morial.
Through the difficulties and complexities of policing in the modern era, the NYPD wants their force to connect and be connected with their communities
"There's a human side of us. We're not a moving force of army," said Chief Harrison. "We're here to serve and protect, and once they see the human side of us, they begin to have a better idea and sense.... They may even want to think about becoming police officers down the road."
Morial seems cautiously optimistic about the changes taking place in New York.
"Now it's still early to be able to evaluate whether this strategy is indeed going to pay long-term dividends, and I caution against reading too much too soon, but I do think that it is the right direction," he said.
Congresswoman takes on mission to classify 911 operators as first responders
Congresswoman Norma Torres, who previously worked as an LAPD dispatcher, wants to upgrade the status of 911 operators from clerical workers to first responder
U.S. Rep. Norma Torres, D-Ca., remembers the call that sent her down a path that would eventually lead to Washington. Torres, who worked as a 911 operator for 17 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, says it's a call she will never forget.
While she was working the graveyard shift one night, a call came in that required a Spanish speaker. With so few bilingual operators available, the call was placed on hold for nearly 20 minutes before Torres was able to answer.
“All I could hear was thumping and just terrible screams in my ears,” Torres recalled. “It was a young girl, saying, ‘Uncle, please don't kill me, it's not my fault.' The thumping was her head being bashed into the wall, followed by five shots. She was shot point-blank by her mother's boyfriend.”
FOR THIS 911 DISPATCHER: A CALL OF A DIFFERENT NATURE
Spurred on by the traumatic nature of that one emergency phone call, Torres dove headfirst into the world of lobbying and politics, seeking to elevate the importance of 911 operators and provide them additional training, regulations, standards, education and status.
In the months and years after the phone call that changed her life, Torres taught herself to lobby the Los Angeles City Council for more resources for the 911 call center, which included a grant that prioritized incoming calls based on severity, as well as the creation of a community program to educate citizens on the proper use of 911.
“I'm very proud of that work,” Torres said. “It shouldn't have taken a little girl to lose her life in order to make those changes to the LAPD.”
Now, Torres wants to bring change at the national level, by upgrading the status of 911 operators from clerical workers to first responders, a move that would have to be authorized by the Office of Budget Management.
A RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION CRISIS IN 911 CALL CENTERS
In an op-ed piece published on The Hill, Torres and Federal Communications Commission member Jessica Rosenworcel brought to light the struggle with recruitment and retention call centers across the country face. The staffing woes are a direct result of not putting enough emphasis on 911 operators and their contribution to each call that comes in and is dispatched, they wrote.
“When major incidents happen and first responders are called to duty, they don't exempt 911 dispatchers. They have to report,” Torres said. “When there's a fire, when there's been an earthquake. When I was a 911 dispatcher, my days off were cancelled just like the police officers'. I was urged to come to work and I had to stay at work, whether it was 12 hours or 14 hours, until the next watch was able to come in. Don't tell me that is not a first responder.”
The classification change Torres is lobbying for would give 911 operators access to more opportunities to apply for grants for training and recruitment purposes.
“I think the general public knows very little about what is at stake here,” Torres said. “If I am a victim of a crime, or I need emergency medical assistance, I want to make sure that the person answering my call, my emergency call, has been trained properly and is being taken care of.”
A CLASSIFICATION CHANGE WOULD PROTECT 911 DISPATCHERS FROM BUDGET ISSUES
During a year with a budget deficit, as a state legislator, Torres spent three months convincing then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that including 911 dispatchers in a furlough order that exempted first responders was, in her words, “short-sighted.”
“I had to show him a pattern of 911 calls that were not being answered,” she said. “That these were critical calls that were coming into the 911 system. It opened the state up for a huge liability should somebody die in that process of not being able to reach a 911 dispatcher.”
First responders often have the benefit of an organization lobbying on their behalf, something that 911 operators lack, which, Torres believes keeps them at a disadvantage.
“With police officers, warrant officers and fire personnel, each of them have a union that is usually very strong,” she said, “and through collective bargaining, they're able to manage a lot of the challenges that each of those professions have. They're able to work at a statewide level, not just within their jurisdiction, and they're able to work even at the national level because they have national representatives.”
A lack of representation is exactly why Torres feels 911 operators have been left behind.
“There isn't one umbrella, one labor organization that represents them,” she said. “I feel strongly that it is because of that, they haven't really had a champion to highlight the work they do, and the importance of that work.”
INCREASED TRAINING FOR DISPATCHERS
One place to start is by standardizing and increasing training, according to Torres.
A lack of across-the-board standards when it comes to 911 dispatcher training requirements prevents workers from being on the same page. Training standards differ by jurisdiction, where one area might require dozens of hours of one-on-one training, versus another that only requires a few hours.
“I don't think that's safe,” Torres said. “I think that's misguided.”
From her time in the California state legislature, Torres believes the best way to supplement training on a national level is to “temporarily expand the use of the 911 surcharge to allow it to be utilized for recruitment and training of personnel for a short period of time.”
However, first things first: getting the coveted classification change. Torres sums up the argument for reclassifying 911 dispatchers as first responders with a simple reminder:
“People forget that you can't get a police officer to your emergency or a paramedic to your location unless someone answers the call, first.”
What cops need to consider about armed citizens
The presence of a gun does not always indicate a threat
Armed citizens and police officers are natural allies, and teammates in the fight against crime. There is no segment of the community more supportive of law enforcement than their fellow citizens who are lawfully armed.
So why are they accidentally killed by police with such distressing frequency?
2018 HAS BEEN A TOUGH YEAR
This has been a tough year for police and armed citizens alike. In 2018, we've seen a number of tragic mistakes made by police officers who shot and killed lawfully armed citizens in error, including a homeowner in Aurora, Colorado, a security guard in Chicago, Illinois, and a Thanksgiving eve shopping mall patron in Hoover, Alabama, among others.
In each of these situations, the officers believed they were using force to stop someone who had endangered innocent life, but they were sadly mistaken. The officers were thrust into a dynamic and dangerous situation where they had to act quickly based on imperfect and incomplete information, and each of them made a fatal error that cost a life.
We still don't understand the details of how these particular events unfolded, so it's inappropriate to comment directly on the circumstances or assign blame. There were probably mistakes made by all parties – both armed citizens and police – which led to the unhappy endings of these stories, and this is not the place to hash that out.
Instead, I'd like to suggest some things for police to consider in order to avoid a tragic repeat of these events:
You're outnumbered. There was a time when carrying a firearm in urban America was virtually the exclusive domain of cops and crooks, but those days are long gone. In the early 1980s, state legislatures began to correct the imbalance with laws that made it easier for law-abiding citizens to obtain permits or licenses to carry concealed firearms in public, and in recent decades, the trend accelerated to the point that almost every state in the union provides a method for average citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights. In more than a dozen states, lawfully armed citizens don't even require a permit to carry a firearm, today. Unless you live in one of the repressive states, there are many more armed citizens out on the streets than armed law enforcement officers – you are the minority.
Evaluate your culture. In some geographic regions, and in some departments, the local police culture hasn't caught up the reality of a lawfully armed public. Officers in these agencies are still trained to think that the only people who have guns, besides cops, are criminals. This just isn't true, of course. Even in the most restrictive areas, there are still citizens who are lawfully permitted to carry firearms in public, and that number is growing daily. Not only are more permits being issued, but reciprocity laws between states have expanded the number of non-residents who can carry across state lines. Additionally, improvements in federal laws like the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) have increased the chance of running into an active or retired officer who is armed, but not in a police uniform. If your department's culture encourages you to think that a non-uniformed person with a gun is probably a criminal, that's a problem that needs to be fixed immediately.
Physiological effects. Your training and experience have taught you that officers can experience a range of physiological effects during stress, to include temporal distortion, tunnel vision and auditory exclusion. Armed citizens are no different, and they may experience these symptoms more severely than officers if they lack experience dealing with life-threatening stress. As a result, armed citizens may not hear your commands to “drop the gun,” or may not even see you at all, if they're suffering from auditory exclusion or tunnel vision. You have to understand that, and account for it in your response to the perceived threat. A failure to drop a weapon doesn't necessarily indicate hostile resistance to your commands, so look for other signs to confirm criminal intent before you decide to engage.
On the flipside, be aware of your own physiological response to stress, and understand that you may not hear verbal warnings from the crowd that the suspect is actually a “good guy,” and you may not see the witnesses waving you off, or pointing in the direction of the real criminal. Use techniques like tactical breathing to lower your own stress level and gain control of your faculties, so you can receive aural and visual inputs to help with your decision-making process.
Use good tactics. Use cover, concealment and other good tactics – like issuing commands from behind cover, triangulating with the help of other officers, or making an approach from a direction that gives you an advantage – to help increase the amount of time you have to identify the intentions of the armed person, gain his attention and compliance, and make good decisions. Pulling the trigger is an irrevocable decision, so don't put yourself in a position where you have to make this choice quickly if you can control the tempo of the contact and slow things down with good tactics.
Communication is key. While en route to a call, ask the dispatcher to get clarifying information about the suspect and his actions, and ask if there are any armed “good guys” on scene. Ask the same questions of the people you encounter upon arrival, and LISTEN to the answers. In several of the incidents listed above, there's evidence that dispatchers and police officers were notified that there was an armed citizen on scene, but didn't understand or process the information. Witnesses and family members may provide you critical information that will help you to avoid a bad shoot, but you have to concentrate on what they're saying to actually receive the transmission. Once again, tactical breathing and other techniques may help you to control your own stress, and make you more receptive to these vital inputs.
It's important for you to recognize that there may be many barriers to effective communication. Background noise like sirens, crying, or yelling may make it hard to hear, and an armed citizen who has just fired a gun – especially inside a closed environment – may be experiencing temporary hearing loss. Take these limitations into account and be careful to ensure that two-way communication has actually occurred – that the message has actually been received, and not just transmitted.
Evaluate the behavior. In stressful, dynamic situations, it can be difficult to tell who all the players are. Trying to sort out the victims from the attackers can be difficult in the confusion and chaos, especially if the would-be-victim turns out to be armed and shoots in self-defense. The critical thing to remember is that the presence of a gun does not indicate a threat – the person with the gun is not necessarily a criminal! It's up to you to evaluate the behavior of the armed person and determine if they are acting criminally, or just using force in the defense of innocent life.
This judgment will be very difficult to make unless you have some information and the time to evaluate it, so once again, it is imperative you use good tactics and good communication to maximize both. If a person is executing innocent people before your eyes, the decision is easy to make, but it's a lot tougher when you roll up on a scene where somebody is holding another person at gunpoint – is he a friend or a foe? You won't know until you gather more information. You can't always control the clock in emergency situations, but when you can, it's essential to slow things down to enable more informed decisions.
Read the crowd. If you roll up on a scene where there's an armed person surrounded by a crowd of onlookers, that's a good indicator the person with the gun is not a threat to innocents. If they thought he was a threat, they would probably be showing some kind of fear and running away from him, instead of staying nearby. Are they cowering from him, or watching him with fearless curiosity? If you see a group on the move that includes an armed person, ask yourself, are they running with him, or away from him? Try to see how people are reacting to the person with the gun and use that information as part of your threat assessment.
Look for the signs. There are often critical elements of information that may help you differentiate a “good guy with a gun” from an armed criminal. Armed citizens often carry their guns in holsters, for example, while criminals almost never do. Therefore, the presence of a holster, a true gun belt, or a magazine pouch on the hip makes it more likely you're dealing with an armed citizen than a thug. Similarly, armed citizens typically carry guns that are appropriate for the circumstances and in good repair – you're unlikely to see them with sawed off barrels, grips held on by tape or rubber bands, or novelty firearms (like a TEC-9) that are unsuitable for concealed carry.
Additionally, many armed citizens have received training that will result in behaviors that are consistent with “professional” gun handling. Criminal suspects rarely hold their guns in “low ready” or “Sul,” hold their trigger fingers off the trigger for safety, or use “textbook” shooting techniques like Weaver or Isosceles. Not every armed citizen will handle his weapon like a SWAT officer – just as not every thug will shoot with his gun held sideways in “gangsta” pose – but the ones who do should give you pause, and make you delay just a little bit longer to verify whether they're friend or foe before you press the trigger.
Lastly, although we cannot judge a book by its cover, appearances do make a difference. The man in the bathrobe is much more likely to be a homeowner defending his castle than a burglar breaking into it, yes? Perhaps he deserves a moment of hesitation to collect more information before you do something that you cannot undo.
Talk to an expert. If you police an area where encounters with law-abiding armed citizens are infrequent, consult a fellow officer with more experience in this area. Fish and game wardens, rural sheriff's deputies and state police that patrol rural areas frequently deal with lawfully armed citizens in the course of their duties. Talk to them about the tactics they use and the things that they say to safely manage these contacts. Those guys who patrol the dirt roads have things they can teach you – learn from them!
A police officer's job is never easy, and a situation where an officer responds to an emergency and encounters an armed citizen can be especially difficult to resolve. Nobody is perfect – in or out of uniform – and everyone is prone to making mistakes when making quick judgments with incomplete information in moments of extreme stress.
However, a police officer is always responsible for their actions, and must have a reasonable belief that it's necessary to use lethal force against an individual before they do so. Developing a proper mindset and using good tactics and communication skills will help an officer make a better use-of-force decision, and help to prevent a tragic, mistaken-identity shooting.
Law-abiding, armed citizens are your friends. Watch out for them, and be safe out there.
Florida's ‘Stand Your Ground' Law Applies to Police, Too, Court Rules
MIAMI — Police officers in Florida can avail themselves of the state's “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law, the State Supreme Court ruled Thursday, offering broader immunity to law enforcement officers in a decision that could make it harder to hold police criminally responsible in disputed shootings.
The court said in its ruling that police officers have the same rights as other Florida citizens who win immunity from prosecution under the law.
“It's a landmark, ground-marking case,” said Eric Schwartzreich, a lawyer for a sheriff's deputy involved in the fatal shooting of an African-American man, who successfully argued that police officers should not be excluded from the law's protections. “It's the first time Stand Your Ground is used in the state of Florida in reference to police. The implications are wide-ranging.”
Legal analysts said the ruling would allow police officers in some cases to avoid jury trials in controversial shootings in which officers believed they were acting in self-defense but might have had other options.
The case before the court stemmed from the 2013 killing of a mentally ill computer engineer who was walking down a street in Oakland Park, north of Fort Lauderdale. The man, Jermaine McBean, 33, had an air rifle slung across his shoulders. As he walked into the apartment complex where he lived, screaming to himself, witnesses called the police.
Three Broward County sheriff's deputies responded and called for Mr. McBean to drop his weapon. But Mr. McBean, who the investigation showed was listening to music with earbuds, apparently did not hear them. Peter A. Peraza, the deputy charged in the case, claimed that Mr. McBean had turned and pointed the weapon at the officers, in the vicinity of children in a swimming pool, so he fired three shots, killing him.
Witnesses said Mr. McBean never pointed the weapon, and the two other officers did not fire their weapons. Two years later, after a New York Times examination of the case, Mr. Peraza was indicted, becoming the first law enforcement officer to be charged in an on-duty killing in Florida in decades.
In court, Mr. Peraza asked for Stand Your Ground protection. He won, but the state appealed.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the ruling, but because the decision conflicted with a prior appellate ruling, the case went to the Florida Supreme Court.
In that earlier case, in 2012, the Second District Court of Appeal had rejected an officer's attempt to use the law to avoid trial for stomping on a 63-year-old man. The officer, Juan Caamano, a former police officer in Haines City, south of Orlando, instead went to trial, but was acquitted.
Last year, two Miami police officers successfully invoked Stand Your Ground immunity when they were sued for damages in the beating of a man in a wheelchair.
The 2005 law eliminates a person's duty to retreat from a dangerous situation and frees them to use deadly force “if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary” to prevent harm or death. It shields people from both criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits. The determination is made by a judge after a hearing, and allows the accused to skip a jury trial altogether.
Stand Your Ground became widely known in 2012, when the police in Sanford, Fla., cited it as the reason that they declined to arrest George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who killed an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin. Critics say the law makes it too easy to claim self-defense when violence could have been avoided, and, according to some analyses, has skewed in favor of white defendants as applied in Florida.
The key to the case before the Supreme Court was language in the Florida law specifying that it applies to “any person.”
In some previous cases in Florida, courts have ruled that police officers have their own immunity law that protects them from criminal charges in justified shootings.
But the Supreme Court in its ruling said the language of the law makes it applicable to all.
“Put simply, a law enforcement officer is a ‘person' whether on duty or off,” the court said.
The court held that law enforcement officers “are eligible to assert Stand Your Ground immunity, even when the use of force occurred in the course of making a lawful arrest,” and are immune from criminal prosecution when the facts warrant it.
Mr. Schwartzreich said the court's opinion meant that officers could “do their job without fear of indictment or arrest.”
Critics of the law said the decision could be considered a free pass for police officers involved in questionable shootings, and worried that it could disproportionately affect African-Americans and Hispanics. Mr. McBean was black, and Mr. Peraza is Hispanic.
“Police officers already have full immunity to kill us at will. This is an extra bonus on top of that,” said Tifanny Burks, a Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward activist who has been working with Mr. McBean's family. “It really is a slap in the face — a blatant one at that.”
David I. Schoen, who is representing Mr. McBean's family in a federal civil rights lawsuit, said the ruling was particularly troubling because it placed too much decision-making power on elected local judges, who often depended on support from police unions to win elections. Invoking Stand Your Ground, Mr. Schoen said, meant a jury in many cases would never get a chance to hear disputed evidence.
“Every unscrupulous law enforcement officer in Florida who kills a civilian now in suspicious circumstances will say he feared for his life, and even with eyewitnesses saying otherwise, he walks and can't be arrested or charged or brought to trial after this decision,” Mr. Schoen said. “It's an injustice, it really is.
How a California agency uses technology to apprehend criminals and keep the highways safe
The AppTrac-365 tracking and asset management system equips agency leadership, dispatch and first responders with critical location intelligence of officers, vehicles and equipment
Located along the main east-west highway between Oakland and the central valley, Pittsburg, California, and the freeways crossing through it are major thoroughfares for Bay Area commuters – and criminals. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the Bay Area holds the dubious honor of ranking sixth in the nation for vehicle thefts. Pittsburg is a friendly place, but the Pittsburg Police Department is making sure that lawbreakers know they are not welcome.
“The criminal element in this area knows that we have cameras on our freeway,” said Captain Steve Albanese. “We're sending a message that if you're coming through our community on this state highway and you commit a criminal act, there's a good chance that we're going to apprehend you and take you into custody.”
USING GPS TO MANAGE PURSUITS
When Pittsburg began to see an uptick in stolen vehicles and highway shootings along its stretch of Highway 4, the police department turned to technology to help bring the crime rate down while keeping citizens, officers and property safe.
With approval from the state, Pittsburg PD became the first law enforcement agency in California to implement an automatic license plate reader and camera system along the entire freeway system in their jurisdiction. Because the system sends alerts to dispatch as well as police vehicles, when a vehicle flagged as stolen, involved in a crime or belonging to a missing person passes by a camera, a description alert is sent to dispatch and relayed to logical response units.
“While this definitely helps officers identify and track stolen vehicles, we found ourselves becoming more and more involved in pursuits or action on the freeway,” said Albanese.
Knowing that highway pursuits are dangerous for law enforcement and citizens and looking to reduce the number of pursuit incidents, Pittsburg PD turned to StarChase to equip their vehicles with a GPS tag and launcher system to help track and apprehend vehicles.
In less than two years of using StarChase technology, the Pittsburg PD has made 231 stolen vehicle recoveries.
“We were having such great success with deployments, with apprehensions and with recoveries of stolen vehicles,” said Albanese. “We then realized we could be tracking the patrol vehicle itself when the GPS tracker was not being used on a suspect vehicle.”
MONITORING AGENCY ASSETS AS WELL AS PURSUED VEHICLES
Tracking a cruiser enables command control to capture information about the vehicle's speed, direction and route that can be shared with prosecutors or used internally to keep track of police vehicles.
Once he realized the potential value of the GPS vehicle tracking within the department, Albanese approached StarChase with a request. He described all the ways the department was using the GPS tracker successfully and wondered if they had a fleet system available.
At the time, StarChase didn't, so Albanese reached out to StarChase's chief technical officer, Wally Olkowski, with a wish list.
Pittsburg PD wanted to spend as little as possible to outfit as many vehicles as possible, so they needed a fleet system that worked with the tablet devices and mobile data terminals they already had mounted in the vehicles. StarChase was open to collaborating, and after several months of development and testing, they presented the standalone tracking and asset management system now in use by Pittsburg PD – AppTrac-365.
AppTrac-365, now available for police departments across the country, is a secure, real-time mobile app for iOS, Android or Windows that integrates into a web-based mapping and tracking application to equip agency leadership, dispatch and first responders with critical location intelligence of officers, vehicles and equipment.
Now, when a flagged vehicle drives the highways in Pittsburg, the automatic license plate reader system recognizes it and sends an alert to dispatch and to the mobile devices in all the department' StarChase equipped vehicles, whether they have StarChase AppTrac-365 or the vehicle mounted system.
As a patrol vehicle approaches the stolen vehicle from a safe distance, the officer launches a GPS tag from the vehicle-mounted compressed-air launcher.
With the GPS tracker securely in place on the stolen vehicle, the responding officer, dispatcher and command staff can make an informed decision about whether to initiate a pursuit or take other action to apprehend the vehicle. AppTrac-365 gives dispatch real-time visibility to officer's locations, aiding in efficient dispatching of officers for service calls.
After the suspect is apprehended, any questions about whether the police vehicle exceeded speed or jurisdiction protocols are easily resolved.
“We had a complaint a couple of weeks ago from a citizen who said, ‘Hey, one of your patrol cars blew past me at over 90 miles an hour on the state freeway. That's uncalled for,'” said Albanese. “We were able to go back and look at the incident saved in AppTrac-365 and confirm to the citizen that, yes, the police vehicle was going at a high rate of speed en route to a legitimate call for service that needed an expedited response. The issue was quickly resolved.”
ASSET PROTECTION MEETS OFFICER SAFETY
The ability to track their own vehicles gave Pittsburg PD added benefits Albanese hadn't foreseen. First, it enables command staff to track a vehicle – even if it goes out of radio range to render mutual aid.
A second benefit is enhanced officer and vehicle safety. In addition to the value of the vehicle itself, most patrol units carry thousands of dollars' worth of computer and tactical gear and weapons that would be disastrous in the wrong hands.
“Those are all assets to the city,” said Albanese, “and obviously you want asset protection in case something happened to the vehicle.”
Today, the vehicles equipped with the StarChase vehicle-mounted system are in the highest demand in the department, even over newer vehicles with less mileage. Because rank-and-file officers are so interested in the system, the AppTrac-365 mapping and tracking application is on permanent display on a wall monitoring system in Pittsburg PD's training room so anyone in the department can watch it live, 24/7.
Local cops take kids on Christmas shopping sprees
When Boyle Deputy Taylor Bottom walked into Cattleman's Steakhouse, he was hoping to get a donation from the restaurant for the local Shop with a Cop program that provides Christmas gifts for kids in need. He walked out with a lot more than he bargained for.
Bottom was talking to a manager about a possible donation when he noticed the restaurant's hostess had walked over “with a wad of money and was just standing there.”
Danville Police Officer Adam Wilson smiles as he reviews all the toys in the shopping cart with 6-year-old Tristan, a Hogsett Primary School student.
When Bottom turned to her, she handed him the cash. “She said when she was young, her and her brother went through the Shop with a Cop program and it meant a whole lot to them,” Bottom said, holding back tears.
Now that this woman was in a better place financially, she wanted to give back to the program that helped give her a merry Christmas, Bottom explained. While the deputy was at the restaurant, the woman's mother came in and gave him some more cash, and the woman's brother, who works in the back of Cattleman's, pitched in, too. In all, the family members contributed more than $400 for the Boyle County Shop with a Cop program.
“It just shows you that this program works and it's a positive impact in (kids') lives,” Bottom said.
Thanks in part to that family's generous contributions, this year, the program doubled in size from 12 to 24 kids, said Jennifer Gaddis, a court designated specialist who helps coordinate the annual event. Donors gave more than $5,000 in total, Gaddis said.
Each kid was paired with a law enforcement officer — the Boyle County Sheriff's Office, Danville Police Department and Junction City Police Department participated. The officers took them on a $175 shopping spree at Walmart. Inquisitive looks came from many shoppers as they noticed dozens of law enforcement officers with shopping carts piled high with toys.
“Oh this is Shop with a Cop,” one shopper realized as he looked at the line of officers and kids waiting to check out. “Can it be my turn next?” he joked.
After shopping, the whole group met up at Cheddar's for lunch, which was also paid for through the program.
Gaddis said children are selected for the program through local schools' family resource centers, which identify the kids most in need. Shopping with the deputies and officers gives the children “positive interaction with law enforcement,” Gaddis said, adding that “some kids don't get that.”
The kids also got to ride in the law enforcement officers' vehicles. Some even turned on lights and sirens as they took the short trip from Walmart to Cheddar's Thursday morning.
Gaddis noted that many of the kids wind up with more than $175 worth of gifts because the officers decide to do more.
“Most of the officers and deputies buy out of their own pocket to make sure the kids get whatever they need,” she said.
Gaddis said organizers hope to once again double their donations and the number of kids they can help next year — they're aiming for $10,000 in donations.
Chicagoans least likely to say they have a good relationship with police force
Denver residents are most likely to say their city has a positive relationship with police
Relationships between American citizens and police officers can often be complicated and at times, contentious. By a wide margin, the city least likely to say they have a positive relationship with their police force is Chicago. Almost one-third (31%) say their city's population has a bad relationship with police, though a larger contingent (57%) says the relationship is good.
Of residents in the 20 most populous metropolitan areas, Denver residents are the most likely to say that their city's population has a good relationship with the police of their city. Almost eight out of ten (79%) Denver residents say the relationship between their police force and citizens is “very” or “somewhat” good, while only 13% say it's bad. Boston and Orlando also have similarly positive relationships with their police, with 78% and 77% respectively characterizing it as good.
Houston (76%), Dallas (75%), Detroit (74%), Miami (72%), Los Angeles (71%), San Francisco (70%) and Washington DC (70%) are also overwhelmingly likely to say their cities have a positive relationship with their police forces.
Portland was also one of the cities least likely to say they have a good relationship with their police force, though two-thirds (66%) say the relationship is good. About one-quarter (24%) of Portland's population say their city has a bad relationship with their police force.
CNN Business Perspectives
Homeowners have lost $156 billion by living in a 'black neighborhood'
by Andre Perry
Homeownership lies at the heart of the American Dream, representing success, opportunity and wealth. And it should. But new data helps confirm that racism is taking money out of black homeowners' collective pockets to a painful sum of $156 billion, keeping those who are striving for the American dream from actually reaping its benefits.
Compared to investing in the stock market and other ways to grow a nest egg, homeownership is still the most consistent and accessible way to build wealth over time. And while homeownership rates vary considerably between whites and people of color, it's typically the largest asset among all people who hold it, regardless of race. That's why these new data merit action in order to alleviate this long-gestating societal blight.
We've known for some time that racism limited blacks' housing options in ways that lowered the value of homes. De jure and de facto segregation — racially restrictive housing covenants that prohibited blacks from buying in certain areas throughout the 20th century — and racially biased redlining from the 1930s beyond the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 — which deemed majority-black neighborhoods too risky for mortgage lenders — isolated blacks in areas that realized lower levels of investment than their white counterparts. Our new data shows that in the average US metropolitan area, homes in neighborhoods where the share of the population is at least 50% black are valued at roughly half the price as homes in neighborhoods with little to no black residents.
Even for those who acknowledge our racist history, the 50% price difference isn't about racial bias; it's about accepting the effects of the past at face value. It's assumed lower housing quality, underfunded schools and crime — all consequences of racism and poverty — set a deserving price point. Our study tested those assumptions.
We examined homes of similar quality in congruent neighborhoods — with the exception of the racial demographics — to make an apples-to-apples comparison between places where the share of the black population is 50% or higher and those where there are little to no black residents. What we found astounds. Differences in home and neighborhood quality do not fully explain the price difference. Homes of similar quality in neighborhoods with similar amenities are worth 23% less in majority-black neighborhoods, compared to those with very few or no black residents. After accounting for factors such as housing quality, neighborhood quality, education and crime, owner-occupied homes in black neighborhoods are undervalued by $48,000 per home on average, amounting to a whopping $156 billion that homeowners would have received if their homes were priced at market rates.
To put it plainly, racial bias is taking away money that could be put toward college tuition or a small business. Devaluation means municipalities with a significant percentage of African Americans lose tax revenue that could be put toward government services and infrastructure. Racism robs money that residents and government officials use to uplift their social status. Bigotry imposes a "black tax" on residents of majority-black neighborhoods that white neighborhoods simply don't face.
Take Rochester, New York for example. With a black population of 11.5%, this metro area sees a -65% difference between the actual price of a home in a black neighborhood and the adjusted rate for equivalent housing in one of the metro area's white neighborhoods, amounting to a $53,000 loss per home. In the Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina metro area, which has a black population of 26.8%, there is a -12.5% difference, resulting in $26,000 in losses per home. And in the home of the largest majority-black city in the nation — the 22.4% black Detroit, Michigan metro area — there is a -37% difference, resulting in $28,000 in average losses per home.
These stark price differences due to devaluation sound the alarm that it's past time to put away the cultural pathology theories in naming reasons for troubled black neighborhoods. Researchers, politicians and pastors alike boil down the decline of black neighborhoods on cultural factors like black women's marital practices, sagging pants and absent fathers.
By ditching hyperbole and examining data, we found that metropolitan areas with greater devaluation in black neighborhoods produce less upward mobility for the black children who grow up in those communities. Conversely, black children born into low-income families achieve higher incomes as adults if they grew up in metro areas where homes saw more value. Our research differentiates itself from other analyses by rightfully putting onus on a function of racism — devaluation — rather than the effects of racism, which ultimately includes blaming the victim.
Instead of victim blaming, we can address the racism that has infected the house buying market that's comprised of mortgage professionals — lenders, real estate agents and appraisers — whose judgments on valuation can have outsized (negative) impacts.
There are exceptions where homes in black neighborhoods are worth more: Madison, Wisconsin, realizes 17% added value, and black neighborhoods in the Worcester, Massachusetts-Connecticut metro area sees a whopping 26% gain. Our interactive data portal makes it easy to compare one area to another.
Nevertheless, we must address racism, which is tangible, measurable and costly, if blacks are ever going to benefit from the American dream. Blacks clearly didn't bias the market to disadvantage ourselves, and we should not shoulder the blame of that reality. Clearly, we still need better policies to give homes in black neighborhoods their proper value. But we must also recognize that there is nothing wrong with black people that ending racism can't solve if we really want communities to improve.
Homicides have fallen dramatically in Honduras. So why are people still fleeing
Despite the impressive reduction in homicides, Hondurans have continued to leave their country in droves in recent years. Some 258,000 of them left in 2016, according to Honduras' institute of statistics.
Less than a decade ago, when Honduras was the homicide capital of the world and this industrial city was the homicide capital of Honduras, the neighborhood of Rivera Hernandez was usually deserted after dark. Residents cowered in their homes, hiding from murderous gangs.
Today, there is less to fear. On a recent warm evening, teenagers kicked around a soccer ball as a vendor selling yam chips circled with a pushcart and a high school marching band practiced nearby.
The transformation is thanks in part to hundreds of millions of dollars the United States has spent to help Honduras fight crime.
The aid has flowed based on a simple hope: If the streets were safer, fewer people would migrate north.
But the reality has proved much more complicated. Though the country's homicide rate has fallen dramatically, the number of people fleeing Honduras in recent years has not — a fact on display this fall when thousands of people joined so-called migrant caravans and began trekking north.
The reasons for “the exodus,” as many in Honduras have begun referring to the recent mass migration, go far beyond violence. The economy is a shambles, with nearly two-thirds of the labor force either unemployed or underemployed. Endemic corruption and political instability have also been major factors.
“We're seeing an accumulation of crisis upon crisis upon crisis,” said Lester Ramirez, director of investigations at the Assn. for a More Just Society, a nonprofit that has received U.S. aid for its anti-violence work. “A lot of people have just lost hope.”
Among Hondurans deported from the U.S. in 2016, 96% cited economic hardship as a main reason for migrating, according to the Pew Research Center.
A 2018 poll by a Honduran think tank, the Reflection, Research and Communication Team, found that among those who had a family member leave in the last four years, 83% said the reason was economic insecurity, compared with 11% who said it was violence.
“The caravan has exposed the reality of poverty, unemployment and repression,” said Honduran economist Hugo Noe.
Yulisa Anavela Ordonez Martinez bathes in a spring. She is 10 but only in the first grade. Her mother died and her father hadn't allowed her to start school. Many Hondurans want to leave their country due to high unemployment and lack of opportunity. The economy has continued to get worse under the current administration. The murder rate has been cut in half.
2011 / 2014
The best available measure of illegal immigration to the United States is how many people are caught at the border, and from fiscal year 2011 to 2014, the number of Hondurans who were detained by the U.S. Border Patrol each year increased from 11,270 to 90,968. Many were children traveling on their own who said they were fleeing gangs.
In response, the U.S. government dramatically increased aid to Honduras as well as to Guatemala and El Salvador, which were also sending large numbers of migrants, appropriating $2.1 billion since fiscal 2016, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The largest share has gone to crime fighting. In 2016 and 2017, Honduras received nearly $204 million for violence prevention, anti-drug efforts, improvements to the justice sector and other security measures, according to the Washington Office on Latin America think tank.
By comparison, $112 million funded economic growth, rural and social development and food security.
The security aid was especially welcomed by President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who had campaigned on an anti-violence platform and then ordered the military and the police to intensively patrol high-crime neighborhoods.
Killings, which had already been on the decline for three years, continued to drop. Overall, the number of homicides per 100,000 people fell from a peak of 87 in 2011 to 44 last year, according to the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras.
In the Rivera Hernandez neighborhood, which has seen significant U.S. investment, homicides have been cut about in half over the last several years, said Danny Pacheco, an evangelical pastor who runs an anti-gang program focused on improving the community's relationship with police.
He said his group's outdoor movie screenings and gangs-versus-cops soccer matches, which are funded in part by the U.S., usually guarantee “at least a few hours of peace.”
Still, some neighborhood residents joined the recent migrant caravans, Pacheco said.
He said some people leave because violence in Honduras, though reduced, remains too much to bear. The country's homicide rate is nearly nine times that of the United States and is still among the worst in the world.
Residents in many parts of Honduras must stay aware of the invisible lines that delineate gang turf, and extortion by gangs is rampant. More than 1,900 people were forced to flee their homes in 2016 and 2017 because of death threats, extortion or other gang activity, according to Honduran human rights officials.
“It's still unacceptable,” Pacheco said.
But he named more mundane factors as bigger drivers of immigration: skyrocketing energy bills, rising food costs and lack of work.
It's apparent every time he tries to persuade a gangster to leave behind a life of crime.
“I can ask them to leave the gang, but I don't have anything else to offer them,” he said. “Even if they graduate high school, they can't get a job.”
Political instability and corruption have also hurt the economy and fed the desire to flee Honduras.
The political system has been in turmoil since 2009, when a coup tacitly supported by the United States forced the president into exile. Hernandez, the current president, was reelected last year in a vote that international observers said was marred by fraud. It spurred nationwide protests in which at least 16 people were killed by state security forces.
As migrants marched north this fall, many shouted an anti-Hernandez chant: “Out, JOH!”
The U.S. has supported anti-corruption efforts, including a purge of more than 5,000 national police officers and the training of recruits. It has also given at least $10 million to the Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras, which was created in 2016 after hundreds of millions of dollars were embezzled from the country's social security institute.
But reforms proposed by the group have been obstructed by Honduran legislators, some of whom the group is investigating.
And new high-profile corruption scandals continue to come to light. Last month, U.S. prosecutors brought drug trafficking charges against the president's brother, who they say moved cocaine through Central America with the help of Honduran authorities.
When Congress boosted aid to Central America, it mandated that a portion of the money be withheld until local governments proved they had taken concrete steps to promote human rights and curb corruption.
The State Department certified that Honduras met those conditions in fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
Still, many people are leaving because they don't trust that things will get better, said Rodolfo Pastor, a spokesman for the country's main opposition party, Libre.
“The majority of the population is probably willing to leave if they can,” he said. “And most who can are.”
Apprehensions of Hondurans at the border fell significantly from fiscal 2014 to 2015, from 90,968 to 33,445 — perhaps in part because of U.S.-funded messaging campaigns that preceded the big increase in aid and warned about the risks of migrating.
But the decline didn't last. The Border Patrol apprehended 52,952 people from Honduras in fiscal year 2016 and 47,260 last year.
The government has not released complete figures for fiscal year 2018, but the available data show a rise over 2017 in one important measure: The number of people who were apprehended while traveling in family units that include at least one child climbed 76% to 39,439.
In recent years, families have accounted for fewer than half the apprehensions.
At the main bus terminal in San Pedro Sula, hundreds of Hondurans begin the journey north every day.
On a recent evening, 26-year-old Elminton Hernandez sat on the curb, cradling his 2-year-old son in his skinny arms. Nearby, another migrant set down coats for his four children to sleep on as they waited for a bus to Guatemala.
Hernandez said leaving would mean his son wouldn't grow up to join a gang. But the main thing they were fleeing was hunger.
When there was work in the palm fields, Hernandez earned $8 a day. But after a recent drought, work had been harder to find, and he struggled to feed his family.
“If you eat breakfast, you can't eat dinner,” he said.
With more Honduran migrants arriving at the U.S. border, the number of people requesting asylum has also risen. In fiscal years 2011 to 2016, a total of 7,350 Hondurans applied for asylum, a 166% increase compared with the five years before that, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a Syracuse University think tank that collects federal data.
During that time period, 80% of asylum claims were denied.
To win asylum, applicants must prove they are at risk of violence based on their religion, race, nationality, politics or “membership in a particular social group,” which in the past has included being a victim of gang violence.
Immigration law does not consider being poor or unemployed a valid reason.
The Trump administration has sought to exclude gang violence as a reason to grant asylum. It also argues that migrants have incentive to make false asylum claims because they are allowed to live in the United States while their cases are pending.
At the same time, the administration has sought to scale back assistance to the region.
The White House requested $66 million for Honduras in its 2019 budget. This fall, Trump threatened to cut aid to the region all together if Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala did not stop migrant caravans from traveling north.
That could mean the loss of programs like the one that trained Domingo Escalon in community policing.
Once largely confined to his police station, Escalon now spends his days strolling the narrow dirt streets of the San Pedro Sula slum known as Bordo del Rio Blanco.
Men and women wave at him, and barefoot children shout his name, “Escalon!”
On a recent afternoon, he stopped by a small shack on the edge of a green cow pasture where Reina Margarita Ordoño, 49, raised her 10 children.
Escalon greeted her, then asked whether she had heard from her 24-year-old son, Elvin. Ordoño shook her head no.
With construction work in Honduras punsteady and no hope of paying for school for his three children, Elvin hoped to make money in the United States.
His mother begged him not to leave. “It's better to be in your home eating only tortillas and salt than living in a strange place,” she said.
He left anyway. No one in the family has heard of him since.
‘Mean world syndrome': In some Seattle neighborhoods, fear of crime exceeds reality
by Gene Balk
How fearful of crime is your Seattle neighborhood? An analysis of crime data and a new survey shows some residents' fears are at odds with reality.
In some Seattle neighborhoods, folks think that crime is a lot worse than it is.
That's one of my takeaways from a recently released survey on public safety conducted by Seattle University's Department of Criminal Justice.
Nearly 6,500 city residents were asked to rate, on a scale of zero to 100, how much they worry about crime in their neighborhood. A zero would mean that they never worry about crime, and 100 would indicate that they worry about it all the time. Survey respondents were asked to consider both violent crime and property crime in their response.
Overall, Seattleites rate their fear of crime at 45.4 out of 100. That number averages out a lower fear rating in daylight hours and a higher fear at night.
The report also includes data for 59 city neighborhoods, and it shows that the level of fear varies widely among them — from lowest to highest, there's a spread of 22 points.
That's to be expected. After all, you're much more likely to be a victim of crime in, say, downtown's Belltown neighborhood than you are in quiet, affluent Magnolia — crime statistics bear that out.
But here's where it gets interesting: According to Seattle University's survey, it's Magnolia — not Belltown — where the fear of crime is higher, and by more than 4 points.
I calculated the crime rates for Seattle neighborhoods, using Seattle Police Department data for 2016 and 2017 and the most recent population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Then I compared the crime rates with the numbers from Seattle University's fear-of-crime scale.
It turns out there are numerous examples of neighborhoods like Magnolia where, when compared with the city average, the fear is high even though the crime rate is low.
Take South Beacon Hill. It has the lowest crime rate in the city, at just 23 per 1,000 residents — that's less than half the Seattle average. But the fear of crime reported by residents is 49.8, the 12th highest neighborhood.
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Even more surprising: Brighton/Dunlap in South Seattle and Pigeon Point in West Seattle are seemingly safe places to live, and rank among the 15 neighborhoods with the lowest rates of reported crime. But in terms of fear, they rank second and third, respectively — both at least 10 points higher than the city average.
Other neighborhoods where the level of fear is above average but the crime rate is below average include: Bitter Lake, Highland Park, High Point, New Holly, Rainier View, Mid-Beacon Hill, Ballard North and Fauntleroy.
What's going on in these neighborhoods?
I asked Jacqueline Helfgott, professor and chair of the criminal-justice department at Seattle University, and co-author of the report, why perceptions of crime could be out of sync with reality.
“There is a phenomenon known as the ‘mean world syndrome‘,” she said in an email, “that the world is a much more dangerous place than it actually is.”
Helfgott says that a number of factors contribute to this sense of fear, including reading or watching a lot of news, or hyperlocal websites like Nextdoor.com, where neighbors frequently post about crime.
“A person who is a high media consumer will believe the world is a much more dangerous place than his or her neighbor who is a low media consumer,” she said.
Past personal experience with victimization can also contribute to the sense of fear that an individual feels. So can certain demographic characteristics, like age or gender, that might put a person at higher risk for certain types of crime.
Visible signs of disorder within a neighborhood — things like broken windows, graffiti, disorderly behavior, and so on — can make a place feel more dangerous, too.
It should be noted that in many Seattle neighborhoods, the level of fear is commensurate with the rate of crime. For example, the neighborhood where people worry most about crime is also the one with the highest rate: Sodo.
Each year, there is about one crime reported for every two residents there. The rate is so high because not many people live in this mostly commercial and industrial district, but it welcomes a lot of visitors (and parked cars). Both major sports arenas, the Starbucks headquarters and a Home Depot call the neighborhood home.
So it's understandable that the fear of crime in Sodo registers 58.9, more than 13 points higher than the city average.
Some other neighborhoods where both the fear of crime and the crime rate are well above average include downtown Seattle, Pioneer Square, the Chinatown International District, Georgetown, South Delridge, South Park and Northgate.
Then there are neighborhoods where the residents have a low fear of crime, and that makes sense, because they don't have that much of it: Madison Park, Leschi/Madrona, Phinney Ridge and Morgan Junction in West Seattle are examples.
Interestingly, there are a few areas where folks aren't overly stressed out about crime despite some of the highest rates in the city.
Most notable is South Lake Union. The crime rate is around twice the city average, but it reports the second-lowest level of fear among the neighborhoods: 38.6. In Belltown and Capitol Hill, too, crime rates are relatively high, but residents are less worried than the average Seattleite.
The neighborhood with the lowest level of fear in Seattle is Fremont, at 36.9. The crime rate here — 60 per 1,000 residents — is on par with the city average.
The fear of crime, even if it is at odds with the rate of crime, is not something to be taken lightly, Helfgott says. It can make a person afraid to do the most ordinary task, like walk to the neighborhood grocery store.
She adds that police can help by speaking with community members, and specifically addressing the discrepancy between the fear of crime and actual crime in the neighborhood.
“Fear of crime is as important as actual crime if it decreases a person's feeling of safety and impacts their quality of life,” Helfgott said. “Police resources need to address both.
The Other Side of “Broken Windows”
What if vacant property received the attention that, for decades, has been showered on petty crime?
In the nineteenth century, British researchers began studying the variation in crime rates between and within cities. Some of these studies offered relatively simple accounts of the variance, in which concentrated poverty led to higher crime. Others went further, asking what explained the disparities in crime rates among poor neighborhoods. Most of this work “offered theories,” the University of Pennsylvania criminologist John MacDonald wrote in a recent paper, “but did not attempt to provide guidance on how to curb crime.” He compared this tradition, unfavorably, with the work of British health scholars, most notably John Snow, whose research on cholera “noted the importance of the spatial environment,” and who “suggested the separation of sewers and drinking water wells to prevent water-borne diseases.”
Of course, social scientists have long influenced crime policies. Consider the “broken windows” theory, which the Harvard political scientist James Q. Wilson and the Rutgers criminologist George Kelling introduced, in a piece in The Atlantic, in 1982. According to Wilson and Kelling, criminals perceive broken windows and other forms of disorder as signs of weak social control; in turn, they assume that crimes committed there are unlikely to be checked. “Though it is not inevitable,” Wilson and Kelling argue, “it is more likely that here, rather than in places where people are confident they can regulate public behavior by informal controls, drugs will change hands, prostitutes will solicit, and cars will be stripped.”
“Broken Windows” is one of the most cited articles in the history of criminology; it's sometimes called the Bible of policing. Since the nineteen-eighties, cities throughout the world have used Wilson and Kelling's ideas as motivation for “zero tolerance” policing, wherein officers monitor petty crimes, such as graffiti, loitering, public intoxication, and even panhandling, and courts severely punish those convicted of committing them. “If you take care of the little things, then you can prevent a lot of the big things,” the former Los Angeles and New York City police chief William J. Bratton has said. (Bratton has also applied the theory in overseas consulting work.) In practice, this meant stopping, frisking, and arresting more people, particularly those who live in high-crime areas. It also meant a spike in reports that police were unfairly targeting minorities, particularly black men.
The broken-windows theory always worked better as an idea than as a description of the real world. The problems with the theory, which include the fact that perceptions of disorder generally have more to do with the racial composition of a neighborhood than with the number of broken windows or amount of graffiti in the area, are numerous and well documented. But more interesting than the theory's flaws is the way that it was framed and interpreted. Consider the authors' famous evocation of how disorder begins:
A piece of property is abandoned, weeds grow up, a window is smashed. Adults stop scolding rowdy children; the children, emboldened, become more rowdy. Families move out, unattached adults move in. Teenagers gather in front of the corner store. The merchant asks them to move; they refuse. Fights occur. Litter accumulates. People start drinking in front of the grocery; in time, an inebriate slumps to the sidewalk and is allowed to sleep it off. Pedestrians are approached by panhandlers.
Things get worse from there. But what's curious is how the first two steps of this cycle—“A piece of property is abandoned, weeds grow up”—have disappeared in the public imagination. The third step—“a window is smashed”—inspired the article's catchy title and took center stage. Debates about the theory ignored the two problems at the root of its story, jumping straight to the criminal behavior. We got “broken windows,” not “abandoned property,” and a very different policy response ensued.
But what if the authors—and the policymakers who heeded them—had taken another tack? What if vacant property had received the attention that, for thirty years, was instead showered on petty criminals?
A few years ago, John MacDonald, the Penn criminologist, and Charles Branas, the chair of epidemiology at Columbia University, began one of the most exciting research experiments in social science. Branas is a leading scholar of gun violence, having become interested in the subject while working as a paramedic. He met MacDonald in the aughts, when they were both working at the University of Pennsylvania, in a seminar on gun violence at the medical school's trauma center. Both were frustrated by the science that linked crime to neighborhood disorder. “A lot of it, from ‘broken windows' on, was just descriptive,” Branas told me. “You didn't know exactly what counted as disorder. And it wasn't actionable. Outside of policing, which was obviously complicated, there wasn't much you could do about it.”
The two began meeting on campus. While they were brainstorming, Branas was invited to discuss his research at a conference in Philadelphia. During his presentation, he briefly mentioned his interest in running an experiment on the physical factors related to gun violence. “When I finished, someone from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society approached me,” Branas recalled. That person was convinced that vacant properties—Philadelphia had tens of thousands of empty lots—were driving up violent crime in poor neighborhoods. The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, or P.H.S., had incredible data, and offered to help.
Branas and MacDonald were excited about the idea. There was, after all, an established literature on the relationship between abandoned properties and crime. In 1993, the criminologist William Spelman published a paper showing that, in Austin, “crime rates on blocks with open abandoned buildings were twice as high as rates on matched blocks without open buildings.” In 2005, the sociologist Lance Hannon showed that, in New York City's high-poverty areas, the number of abandoned houses in a given census tract correlated with homicide levels. But Branas and MacDonald wanted to draw from an even deeper study, which required collecting an enormous amount of data and designing an experiment. They invited more scientists to join them: a health economist, a professor from Penn's Department of Emergency Medicine, and a medical anthropologist.
One of the team's first research projects involved two natural experiments in Philadelphia. In one, they examined violent crime around 2,356 abandoned buildings that had been in violation of Philadelphia's anti-blight ordinance. A set of six hundred and seventy-six buildings had been remediated by the owners, which meant they had been “treated” with replacement doors and windows; the rest had not. Every month, for a three-year period between 2010 and 2013, the researchers compared violent-crime levels around the treated buildings with violent-crime levels around a randomly selected, geographically matched group of buildings that remained in disrepair.
The second experiment compared violent crime around vacant lots. According to the team's research, there were 49,690 such lots in Philadelphia. P.H.S. had remediated at least 4,436 of them, which meant it had cleared trash and debris, graded the land, planted grass and trees to create a parklike setting, and installed low fences with walk-in openings to facilitate recreational use and deter illegal dumping. Again, Branas and his colleagues compared the treated sites with a set of randomly selected, geographically matched properties. In this study, they measured crime annually, over a full decade, from 1999 to 2008.
On a warm and windy day in September, I visited Philadelphia to observe the sites that P.H.S. had remediated. Keith Green, a P.H.S. employee with a salt-and-pepper beard, picked me up in his blue Ford pickup truck, and told me that we'd begin by driving to West Philadelphia, where P.H.S. maintains 2.3 million square feet of vacant land. Green, who grew up in a part of Philadelphia that's so gray it's known as “the concrete city,” started working at P.H.S. twenty-one years ago, first as an intern and then on community-garden projects. “I never thought I'd be doing this for so long,” he told me. “But I found my niche when we started fixing up abandoned property.”
As we drove, Green told me about one of his first jobs. “The city asked us to clean up a two-block area in North Philadelphia where there was a flea infestation. We got there, and it was like the entire area had turned into a jungle. Weeds, tall grass, messed-up trees. People were using it as a dumping ground.” The team ended up treating a hundred and twenty-five empty lots. “It was a horrible job, but when we finished you could tell that the neighborhood was going to be different,” he said. “And people were so happy. I'd have kids running up to my truck, yelling, ‘Mr. Keith! Mr. Keith! Can you come back tomorrow?' They treated me like I was Mister Softee.”
Green drove slowly up Fortieth Street, on the west side of the city. “You're gonna want to keep your eyes open,” he said. The area looked a lot like Englewood and North Lawndale, neighborhoods I'd studied in Chicago, where row houses and apartment buildings, some empty, some well-kept, sat adjacent to large, open lots that were thick with weeds, debris, and six-foot-high grass. “See that?” He pulled over at a corner lot with a low-lying wooden fence, two benches, trimmed trees, and a neatly cut lawn. “That's one of our treated sites. You can tell because it's so well maintained.”
We got out and walked through the pocket park to a vacant house and large lot a few steps away. There, the grass had grown both high and wide, so that it came through the sidewalk and out to the curb. “Now this—this is a disaster,” Green said. “It's probably got an owner who wouldn't let us work here, or someone we couldn't track down. If you live here, you've got to deal with all the problems this attracts into the neighborhood: pests, insects, garbage, crime. And you know it's gonna make it hard for new development to work here. People see that and they want to run.”
We crossed the narrow street to look at another property. Loretta, a woman in her late twenties, out for some exercise, was walking briskly toward us. I paused and asked if she lived there. “No,” she replied. “But I walk around this neighborhood all the time.”
“Have you noticed all the little parks with small fences?” I asked.
“Not really.” She looked around, took them in. “They're nice, though.”
“What about the abandoned lots with all the weeds and garbage?”
“Um, yeah,” Loretta answered, cracking a little smile. “Why do you think I'm walking on the other side of the street?” She paused for a beat, then looked over at the lot. “Those places are scary. You don't know what's going on in that mess, who's around. There's a lot of places like that around here, and I just try to keep away.”
Green and I headed up the road again before turning onto Westminster Street. He pointed to a large remediated lot that residents had converted into a community park, with picnic tables and a small garden. “A guy who owns a store a few blocks away helped fix up this block,” Green explained. “He just wanted the neighborhood to look nice, to get more people out on the sidewalks and gardens. We see a lot of that. If we maintain things, residents go a little further, and put in what they like.”
We crossed over to a set of three row houses that had pocket parks on either side. As we approached, a man with gray hair, sunglasses, and a wooden cane was sitting on a picnic table and talking on a flip phone. He stood up, nodded, and introduced himself as Micky. Green asked if the park made the neighborhood better. “Oh, you know it does,” he replied. He pointed to the front porch of the row house next door, where a woman named Joyce, in sandals and a white T-shirt, was relaxing on a rocking chair. “Ask her. She knows.”
Joyce was nodding. “I've been staying here ten, twelve years now. Those lots were bad when I first got here. Drugs and all that. Kids up to no good. People would let their dogs run all around them, too—oh, did it smell!” She grimaced and shivered a little. “But they fixed it up pretty soon after I got here. Put them tables in—big umbrellas, too. Kids started coming around. We got the garden going. Before, everybody would avoid this block. It was ugly, and dangerous, 'cause you didn't know who was gonna jump out of those bushes. Now it's a lot better.”
Green and his colleagues at P.H.S. suspected that fixing up the empty lots and buildings was improving Philadelphia's poor neighborhoods, but they weren't certain. Branas and MacDonald had a more specific hypothesis: that remediation would reduce violent crime nearby. “It's not simply that they are signs of disorder,” Branas told me. “It's that the places themselves create opportunities for gun violence; they take what might just be a poor neighborhood and make it poor and dangerous.”
The reasons are straightforward. Abandoned houses are good places for people involved in crime to hide when on the run. They're also good places to store firearms. Untended lots are notoriously useful for drug dealing—in part because most law-abiding residents avoid them, and in part because dealers can hide their products in the weeds and tall grass if the police drive by. For communities, and for the police, they are hard places to monitor and control.
Compelling theories, as critics of broken-windows policing know all too well, are often betrayed by evidence. That's why Branas was so surprised by the findings from their first study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, which showed a thirty-nine-per-cent reduction in gun violence in and around remediated abandoned buildings and a smaller—but still meaningful—five-per-cent reduction in gun violence in and around remediated lots. These are extraordinary numbers, at a level of impact one rarely sees in a social-science experiment.
Equally powerful, Branas said, was that there was no evidence that the violence had simply shifted to nearby places. The declines were real. And they lasted from one to nearly four years, making the benefit far more sustainable than those of other crime-reduction programs. “Honestly, it was a bigger effect than we'd expected to find,” he said.
For Branas, the results pointed toward a new approach to crime prevention. Early in his career, he worked on what, in hindsight, he views as a failed experiment—conventional anti-violence research that focussed on the people most likely to commit crimes. “When I started at Penn, we had been working hard to reduce gun crime in Philadelphia. We had the interpreters, the social workers, the community leaders,” he said. “Some of them were amazing, and we had some successes. But they were always short-lived.?.?.?. In the end, it wound up helping only, I don't know, about fifty kids, just the ones who were there at the time.”
To this day, most policies that aim to reduce crime focus on punishing people rather than improving places. The President has called for a national “stop and frisk” police program; the Attorney General wants more severe sentencing; advocates of “law and order” are resurgent. We invest little in housing and neighborhood amenities like libraries, senior centers, and community gardens, which draw people into the public realm and put more eyes on the street. And we spend even less to address criminal “hot spots”—the empty lots and abandoned buildings that, according to Branas's team, account for fifteen per cent of city space in America.
What the Philadelphia studies suggest is that place-based interventions are far more likely to succeed than people-based ones. “Tens of millions of vacant and abandoned properties exist in the United States,” Branas and his team wrote. Remediating those properties is simple, cheap, and easily reproducible. What's more, the programs impose few demands on local residents, and they appear to pay for themselves. “Simple treatments of abandoned buildings and vacant lots returned conservative estimates of between $5.00 and $26.00 in net benefits to taxpayers and between $79.00 and $333.00 to society at large, for every dollar invested,” the team wrote. It's not only more dangerous to leave the properties untended—it's more expensive.
Slowly, word seems to be spreading. After Branas began publishing his findings, cities throughout the U.S. and beyond began similar efforts. “In the last few years we've had people here from so many cities,” Keith Green told me. “Detroit, Chicago, Trenton, and Seoul. When the guy from Chicago was here, he kept saying, ‘This is incredible! This is incredible!' ” By 2016, the team had raised millions of dollars in federal grants, and blight-remediation projects had been launched in New Orleans; Newark and Camden, New Jersey; Flint, Michigan; and Youngstown, Ohio. Each experiment included, at Branas's insistence, trained frontline researchers and paid community residents.
These are not new ideas. In 1854, John Snow, the British health researcher, began studying a cholera outbreak on Broad Street, in the Soho section of London. At the time, most people, scientists included, believed that the cause of the epidemic was “miasmata,” or foul air. Snow was a skeptic. He mapped the cases and noticed that they clustered around a single water pump, which he persuaded the local council to disable. That action—which stopped the outbreak, founded the field of epidemiology, and spurred fundamental improvements to the public's health—came from an attention to the environment, not to the individual. “We're proud that we've been able to employ people in these neighborhoods,” Branas said about his work. “But the bigger, more sustainable effect will come from fixing places
Indiana governor says passing hate crime law 'long overdue
The spray-painting of a swastika outside a suburban Indianapolis synagogue this summer was the final straw for Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who quickly called for Indiana to join the 45 states that have hate crime laws.
"It's not only the right thing to do, it's long overdue," Holcomb said Friday during an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm convinced the overwhelming majority of Hoosiers feel the same way."
As the annual legislative session draws near, though, some warn that such a proposal could spark a bitter cultural debate that would bring unwanted attention to the deeply conservative state, much like the 2015 religious objections law that critics widely panned as a sanctioning of discrimination against the LGBT community and that drew a stiff rebuke from big business.
"If this is a big, knock-down, drag out, 'RFRA-esque' discussion, it is not going to help anyone," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, using an acronym for 2015's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law by Vice President Mike Pence when he was Indiana governor. "We need to do it in such a way that's not a net negative and brings undue attention to our state."
Bosma would know. The Indianapolis Republican helped shepherd a bill to "fix" the law through the Statehouse — steps that were taken only after businesses protested, groups vowed a boycott and the state was lampooned on late-night TV.
An overwhelming majority of states have hate crime laws, which vary to some degree but generally allow for stiffer sentences to be given to people who are convicted of crimes motivated by hatred or bias. Only Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Wyoming and Arkansas do not.
What remains to be seen is what sort of law might be palatable to Indiana legislators — whether it would be open-ended and general or whether it would specify characteristics that would be covered, such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity, which is what Holcomb wants.
While many business leaders support the governor's call for a hate crime law and view the absence of one as a sign of intolerance, many religious conservatives, including some rank-and-file legislators, see it as an unnecessary exercise that could lead to other unwanted social changes.
For years, they've stymied efforts to put a hate crime law on the books, arguing that judges can already consider factors such as bias when determining sentences.
"Nobody is for hate crime, but it's a Pandora's box," said Ron Johnson, who leads the Indiana Pastors Alliance and believes Christians are persecuted by gay rights supporters. "It opens the door to all the rest of this craziness that we are seeing."
Some conservatives argue that adopting a hate crime law would create a "protected" class of citizen and grant additional acceptance to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Another common refrain among lawmakers who oppose the idea is that it would target "thought crime." All crimes are bad, they say, regardless of what motivates them.
Holcomb says "nothing could be further from the truth."
"You want to have a moronic thought ... that's your right," he said. "But when it becomes a criminal action, you've crossed the line."
For those who have received intimidating threats driven by hatred or bias, the issue is far less abstract than many critics portray.
Across the U.S., the number of reported hate crimes increased by about 17 percent in 2017, according to the FBI. In Indiana, the number has fluctuated in recent decades, ranging from about 40 to over 100 crimes per year that would fit the description.
But those figures depend on how law enforcement agencies categorize crime, which can be subjective, and how many of them report their statistics to the FBI, which can fluctuate.
Indiana has a complicated history when it comes to prejudice and bigotry. The state was a stop along the Underground Railroad, but in the 1920s, local politics was dominated by the Ku Klux Klan, with some estimates indicating that one-quarter of the native-born white men were members.
In the 1960s, Indiana-born author and diplomat John Bartlow Martin described the state in a memo to Robert Kennedy as "suspicious of foreign entanglements, conservative in fiscal matters, and with a strong overlay of Southern segregationist sentiment," according to Indiana historian Ray Boomhower.
Aside from the synagogue vandalism that prompted Holcomb to publicly call for a hate crime law, activists say graffiti swastikas have been appearing in more public places. Last year, a man pleaded guilty to battery after authorities say he attacked a woman in Bloomington while shouting racial slurs and trying to remove her headscarf.
And Matthew Heimbach, of Paoli, has become a prominent figure in the white nationalist movement, once spearheading a group that described itself as "fighting to secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."
David Sklar, assistant director of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, said the only reason anyone should worry about a hate crime law "is if you are a criminal."
"Will passing a hate crime statute ultimately stop a hate crime from happening? Chances are probably not," Sklar said. "But it is equally important to make sure that a person receives the right amount of jail time and for the state to say, 'We will not tolerate these things and we will make our laws reflect that.
Community policing drive concludes with call to share information on wrongdoer
The Rwanda National Police (RNP)'s week-long campaign to strengthen community policing concluded on Thursday with a call to reinforce community initiatives against lawlessness.
Even as the country is witnessing sustained security, police says prevailing cases of drug abuse, domestic and gender based violence, a child abuse are corruption are some of the issues that could jeopardise efforts to improve people's social welfare.
Addressing hundreds of Kigali dwellers and other community policing groups at Kigali stadium, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Barthelemy Rugwizangoga, said that community policing is the backbone of the current security situation.
Community policing, he added, helped break the past phobia that made the citizenry fear their security organs while denying them the right to safeguard their own security.
Community policing was adapted in the year 2000, when the national police force was created, to encourage citizens to participate in crime-solving.
It came as a strategic response to rampant crime, police says.
Since then, various community policing groups have been established, including over 140,000 members of community policing committees, 260,000 Rwanda youth volunteers in community policing, about 3,000 anti-crime clubs, anti-crime ambassadors as well as Irondo (community night patrols)across 14, 837 villages in the country.
The 2017/2018 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) ranked Rwanda the first in Africa and 13th globally where citizens trust and rely on police services for their safety.
“Community policing gains should be sustained and strengthened to give no room for drug dealers, and ensure those who abuse the rights of women and children, and deny the young people a better future are brought to justice. All this largely depend on information sharing,” ACP Rugwizangoga said.
On the issue of narcotics, ACP Rugwizangoga observed that it remains one of the major obstacles to youth development both in aspects of education and health.
More than 4000 drug dealers were arrested last year. Youth aged between 18 and 35 years account for at least 70 per cent of the people involved in drug related crimes, including trafficking, and abuse.
Between 2010 and 2015, the Neuro-psychiatric Hospital of Ndera received 1,432 patients with mental illness due to use of drugs, according to Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC).
The number increased to 2804 in 2016 but dropped to 1960 last year. Huye Isange Rehabilitation Centre received 209 cases, last year.
Kirehe, Nyagatare, Rubavu, Burera and Gicumbi districts, where the latest campaign was also held, are considered as the main transit routes for drug traffickers.
As a result, communities especially, along borders, have formed anti-drugs groups aimed at reenforcing police efforts to break chains of supply.
Official reports indicate that the number of teenage mothers is high in the districts of Gatsibo, Nyagatare, Kirehe, Bugesera, Gasabo, Rubavu, Kayonza, Musanze, Ngoma and Rwamagana.
“Don't witness or suspect a crime and keep quiet,” Rugwizangoga said.
He hinted on the issue of road traffic safety urging them to report drivers and motorcyclists whose behaviours put lives of people at risk.
Despite the 20 per cent reduction in road accidents in this year's first nine months, overtaking and dangerous spots, speeding, drunk-driving and driving while using the phone remain the major causes of fatalities.
Motorcyclists account for 30 per cent of road injuries and deaths registered, followed by cyclists and pedestrians.
Community policing is unpopular with officers because it lacks 'action,' Police Chief Burton says
Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton told the Citizens Police Review Board Wednesday night that the recent announcement about changes to the department's community-oriented policing program — the Community Outreach Unit — reflects staffing challenges and a lack of interest among patrol officers in the ho-hum work of community policing.
Burton's comments came after several days of confusion about the future of the Community Outreach Unit.
On Nov. 13, the Missourian reported details of a leaked internal email from Deputy Chief Jill Schlude to police in which she outlined the reasons for disbanding the Community Outreach Unit and reorganizing community-oriented policing as the Community Response Unit.
“Unfortunately our current staffing numbers cannot sustain the current model of 14 officers and two sergeants working in very small focus areas,” she wrote in the email.
She described the department's plans to replace the current model of employing 14 officers for the Community Outreach and Downtown units with eight different beats across the city with one officer each and two sergeants to oversee the program. This would allow six officers from the Community Outreach and Downtown units to return to patrol beats, she wrote.
Burton spent more than an hour addressing the conflicting narratives about the new model at the Police Review Board's meeting Wednesday.
“It appears that there's a lot of confusion out in the public about the Community Outreach Unit. I'm not sure who they spoke with to get the story started, but apparently it started the rumor that we were doing away with community policing, he said.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. What we are proposing is a new iteration of the current unit,” he told the board.
But Chad McLaurin, a member of Race Matters, Friends, who spoke after Burton at Wednesday's meeting, expressed doubts about what Burton had said and his leadership generally.
“What the chief described when he first got up there — when he made a distinction between policing and community-oriented policing — tells me that he is absolutely not the person to lead the change in that organization,” he said.
He said Race Matters, Friends, “has a lot of problems” with the administration of the police department and the city manager. “We have a lot of problems with the politics involved here that go far beyond the average police officer trying to conduct their job in the field.”
Not enough ‘action'
Burton told the board he thinks the Community Outreach Unit has had difficulty retaining officers because police officers are attracted to the work for the “action.”
“The people that are police officers signed on to be police officers, OK? They want to do police work as well as engage in community policing. If you're on the Community Outreach Unit, you're doing nothing but … just community policing,” he said. “You're not doing any kind of enforcement action and things like that. So people tend to get bored with it.”
A member of the board asked for clarification, wondering if by “action” he meant things like car chases.
“Absolutely,” he said. “That's why police officers become police officers. They want to go in and handle the calls and recover stolen cars and catch burglars and do all of the things that police officers do.”
And yet, despite the reduction in staff, Burton repeated that the program is not “going away.”
“That's where all the confusion lies. It's just taking on a different form,” he said. “What we want to do is take eight officers and two sergeants and assign each one of those eight officers to one of the beats in the city. They'd be assigned to that area to do the exact same thing the COU unit is doing right now but only in those four small neighborhoods. It's an attempt to have community policing go citywide.”
City Manager Mike Matthes touched on the same talking points in a brief conversation with the news media Thursday. He said the changes would allow the department to implement community policing in a larger part of the city without spending more money.
When asked if this updated model would be less effective, Matthes said that it would be “a lot more effective in the parts of town it isn't now,” but that it would “do less in the neighborhoods where we have it now.”
The Community Outreach Unit was created in 2015 to patrol three neighborhoods with high rates of police calls. That included a “central strategic plan” neighborhood located around Douglass Park, a “north strategic plan” neighborhood around Lange Middle School and an “east strategic plan” neighborhood that included areas around Indian Hills Park.
In the new model, which Matthes said will continue to be called the Community Outreach Unit, eight beat officers will also continue to work part-time in downtown Columbia.
Burton provided an example of how that would work when he spoke to the review board on Wednesday.
“When we need them downtown, like during football games and things like that, they'll engage in those activities,” he said. “When they're not doing that, they can work together on problems that are identified by citizens that citizens want us to work on.”
Burton added that there will be collaboration across the eight beats. The officers will be the point of contact for residents on their beat, but they will regularly work with other officers across beats.
“They'll have eight people that they can draw from, and so they won't all be in their own beat every day,” he said. “They'll be working all over the city, working on problems that have been highlighted by either citizen interaction, where they found out something needed to be worked on, or citizen requests.”
These outreach officers will take fewer calls than a regular patrol officer, he said.
“What we're trying to do is what was asked in that report, expanding community policing,” he said, referencing a 300-plus-page report released by community policing leader Sgt. Robert Fox in August. In an ideal world, Burton said, the community-oriented policing program would have three times as many officers as the current plan allows.
“If I were king, I would have three of these officers in every beat, so about 24 officers,” he said.
The proposed new plan will allow for officers in beats with historically lower rates of crime to assist in areas with more problems. The Community Outreach Unit was started in 2015 as a way to direct more officers to “hotspots” within the community. The new program would divert police officers from these identified hotspots.
“There are parts of the city where the biggest concern for the people that live in that neighborhood is parking issues. We're not going to spend a lot of time there, right?” he said. “But we are going to have a liaison, so that when you have a parking issue in your beat, even though that doesn't happen very often, you'll have an officer that you can contact.”
This proposed model also encompasses problem-oriented policing, Burton said.
“Problem-oriented policing requires the officers look at things critically, and they try to solve the problem, reduce its effects or make it somebody else's problem,” he said. “For instance, what's bothering you in your neighborhood may not be a police matter at all. Maybe it's code enforcement. Officers will be taught that they can go to code enforcement and get your problem solved for you instead of you having to do it.”
Problem-oriented policing requires figuring out what the problem is, analyzing it, responding to it and then assessing whether or not the response was successful. That means also analyzing crime data and making comparisons to see whether policing is having an impact.
Overall, Burton said policing has lost some of the “luster” it once had.
“We're not getting the applicants that we did,” he said. “It's just not that glamorous a job anymore. There's so much more that goes with it that people are hesitating. They can make more money elsewhere, doing something else.”
McLaurin expressed support for the hard work that police do and emphasized that the organization's criticism was not directed at individual officers.
“They're out there, they have a tough enough job,” he said. “But what we do take exception with is that Chief Burton is not setting the tone of leadership necessary to have an effective police force.”
Race Matters, Friends, has been calling for Burton's resignation since the summer of 2017, in response, in part, to his disavowal of racial profiling in traffic stops in Columbia. Burton has said he plans to continue as chief until his contract ends in the spring of 2019.
On 4 December, community police officers have begun working in Tbilisi as part of “Systematic Upgrade” of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The new unit of the criminal police force is designed to gradually replace the concept of district inspectors and district direction of the criminal police.
Addressing community officers at the launch event, Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia said “Today is a very important day for us. As you are aware, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has been proceeding a Systemic Upgrade reform already for a year and you are the first real practical step to the implementation of this reform. Your function – taking care of our citizens - is the most important thing.”
It is hoped that the presence of community officers in Tbilisi will help to prevent crime and build trust between police and citizens. Community-orientated policing models have already been used effectively to prevent crime in many countries around the world.
Officers were chosen from current staff and have undergone intensive training over a period of several months. They have begun working in Vake-Saburtalo Police divisions.
Community policing will be introduced gradually in all Tbilisi districts before being extended throughout the whole of Georgia.
Sand Springs earns international award for community policing efforts
City earns international award for community policing efforts, evolving plan
For three years, Sand Springs police have published their policing plan — a living document guided by community input that dictates how the department ought to conduct itself.
The document has become the guiding philosophy for the department, and the policing plan and the annual effort to improve it has gained international recognition. Sand Springs Police Chief Mike Carter said community-oriented policing is not foreign for those in his department.
“This isn't a new thing where we said ‘We're now going to be believing in community policing,'” Carter said. “This is just a new format for how we can demonstrate that.”
On Tuesday, the International Association of Chiefs of Police awarded to the department and the Sand Springs community the Leadership in Community Policing award for cities in their population bracket. Cisco Systems, the technology conglomerate, co-sponsored the award with the IACP. Cisco representatives, in a blog post announcing the winners of the award, recognized the department for its policing plan.
“Sand Springs officers and the public have direct input into the annually produced plan, resulting in organizational and community buy-in,” a Cisco spokesman wrote in the post.
The policing plan was based, in part, on suggestions included in the U.S. Department of Justice report on police activity in Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of Michael Brown in 2014.
“You can't have community policing be a one-way conversation,” Carter said. “It can't be ‘let us tell you who we are, that we don't want to know what you want us to be.'”
While much of the Department of Justice report on Ferguson focused on inordinate policing and punishment for people of color, especially black citizens, the new policies deal less with race and more with economic disparity.
In order to rid the department of the perception that officers write traffic citations to collect revenue for the city, Carter instructed officers to write fewer tickets and instead — when appropriate — give written and verbal warnings.
Other items in the plan designed to reduce disproportionate punishment for the city's low-income population include a 72-hour limit on jail time for those who can't afford to make bail for municipal offenses.
Other mandates include anti-bias training, an agreement with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate fatal uses of force in the city and a program called “Food for Fines,” where those with outstanding warrants can exchange canned foods for credit toward their fines.
Sand Springs police submitted their application months before the deadline and “kind of forgot” about it until they were told they were to receive the award, Carter said. The intention was less to win and more to share with law enforcement communities what Carter says works for them.
“It's really to allow the public and us to work in partnership to see where we want to go and what's important to the community,” Carter said.
The evolving document is meant to “match (the community's) expectations of us,” he said. Carter said in its next revision, the policing plan will include security and safety protocols specifically for the city's schools.
Vigilante Violence Keeps Terrorizing Communities
Twenty years after the end of the nation's civil war, real peace is still far off.
“We have to go, son.”
The young man trots down the stairs and climbs into a car. His mother drives in silence, tears gathering in her eyes. She stops near a parking lot. “I love you,” she says.
He doesn't respond. He pushes the car door open and walks into the lot, behind some low-slung buildings. His breath grows rapid, ragged, anxious. Men in balaclavas approach.
Within seconds it's over. A pop, a scream. “Again!” Another pop, another scream. He's weeping on the asphalt; there are bullets in his legs.
His story is fictional—he's an anonymous character in a shockingly violent public-service ad—but it's representative of an old trend that is newly virulent in Northern Ireland. Two decades after the Good Friday Agreement formally ended the long-standing sectarian conflict between Catholics and Protestants there, and seemed to offer a template for ending civil conflicts around the world, a different kind of violence persists in working-class communities.
And the police have warned it is not going away.
“We call them ‘paramilitaries,' but in bygone days a lot of them would've been called terrorists,” Anthony Harbinson, the Northern Ireland Department of Justice's director of safer communities, told me.
The attackers are essentially gang members enforcing their own version of justice in communities where law enforcement is either unwelcome or fears to intervene. Sometimes they claim to be policing “anti-social behavior” such as drug dealing, but Harbinson says the perpetrators are often dealing drugs or participating in other criminal enterprises themselves and trying to protect their turf.
Where the Brexit Stakes Are Highest
Northern Ireland's struggle with paramilitaries illustrates just how complicated it is to end a war, even in the event of a successful peace deal. For many conflicts around the world, the Good Friday Agreement represents the best-case scenario of power-sharing and disarmament. But Northern Ireland's continuing violence also shows how the societal distortions and the trauma of a long-ended conflict can continue to tear at communities, leaving them in a condition that's not technically war but is far short of real peace.
Read: The Good Friday Agreement in the age of Brexit
The attacks take the form of shootings in the ankles, elbows, or knees (“sometimes all six,” Harbinson says), or beatings with hammers or clubs. The objective is not generally to kill, though some result in fatalities. Frequently, the victims know their attackers personally, since they all hail from the same close-knit communities. And often, as the new PSA depicts, the victims themselves show up, or their parents take them, to an appointment to be beaten or shot—they fear worse if they don't.
Northern Ireland police say so-called punishment attacks like this are markedly higher than five years ago. But the origins lie in the deeper dynamics of the conflict, which didn't so much end as shift into another domain.
The violence of the Troubles took some 3,600 lives over a 30-year period. When the Good Friday Agreement laid out provisions for a unity government and the disarmament of paramilitaries in 1998, sectarian violence across the country swiftly plummeted. Even then, though, there was evidence of a key problem left unsolved.
“It is a funny sort of peace in which people are regularly maimed and driven from their homes by paramilitary thugs,” wrote The Economist in 1999, a year after the agreement was signed. The punishment attacks weren't mentioned in the accords; they weren't, after all, the kind of Catholic-on-Protestant violence that the peace deal was meant to stop.
But the phenomenon had developed alongside the Troubles, for different reasons in different communities, explains Rachel Monaghan, a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Ulster who has researched intra-communal violence in Northern Ireland. In the case of Catholic republican communities, who sought independence from British control, paramilitaries formed in opposition to—or defense from—the police. In Protestant loyalist areas, they formed as a kind of auxiliary to the authorities.
The phenomenon outlasted the Troubles. This year, one researcher on the Northern Ireland Policing Board tallied a toll of 158 deaths in “security-related” incidents in the 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement, most of them due to this kind of paramilitary activity. It was a total nowhere near the worst levels of the civil war, but one the researcher, Paul Nolan, told the BBC he found shocking.
“The violence has been turned inwards,” he told the broadcaster.
Those figures may even understate the prevalence of paramilitary activity, because many punishment attacks take the form of beatings or nonfatal shootings designed to intimidate rather than kill. At the post–Good Friday Agreement peak of such activity in 2001, the police counted 323 casualties tied to paramilitary activity, though given the distrust of police in many affected communities, this may be also be too low a number.
More recent statistics put the count near 90 annually for the past two years, compared with a post–Good Friday Agreement low of near 50 a decade ago. But the absence of other types of political violence renders these numbers especially stark, Monaghan said.
It persists even though communities can typically identify the assailants. Brenna Powell, a lecturer at Stanford Law School who has researched the Northern Ireland peace process, recalls meeting a teenaged boy who had been shot so many times with a nail gun that his hands were mangled. Every time he got attacked, Powell said, he knew exactly who was carrying it out. But the beatings didn't stop, because he had nowhere else to go.
Powell cited high rates of suicide and drug abuse associated with the trauma of the conflict. “Does this kind of violence disappear in the absence of progress on all those other fronts? I don't think so.”